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See drag artist Le Gateau Chocolat perform at Theatre Royal Stratford East

PUBLISHED: 09:00 26 March 2017

Le Gateau Chocolat. Picture: Magnus Hastings

Le Gateau Chocolat. Picture: Magnus Hastings

Magnus Hastings

An intimate account of a cabaret star's journey with depression is to see its first London orchestral version shown in Stratford.

Nigerian drag artist and operatic singer Le Gateau Chocolat blends hits by pop legends Nina Simone and Whitney Houston with classical composers for Black, his show about mental health illness and black memes.

“I lost two friends to depression and I thought it was time to talk about it in my work,” said the 34-year-old artist – who goes by his stage name – about the origins of the show.

Originally commissioned in 2013 by international LGBT festival Homotopia, Black covers domestic violence and sexuality but it also about how language can be used to share experiences.

“I live in a world where I am always told I am different so it is about underlining commonalities to explore that there are many names connected to a word which are universal such as black dog, and black and blue,” he explained, adding: “You do not need to be black to experience these elements.”

Having started life as a piano piece, Black has developed in scale with the addition of the 13-piece orchestra which Le Gateau Chocolat says “punctuates the music beautifully”.

He admits it can be “difficult” to perform such an emotionally draining show but this is outweighed by “the burning desire to make sure you do not push the discussion of mental health and depression back into the taboo category that it isn’t anymore”.

I asked how his struggles with depression are now. “The interesting thing about depression is if you think about it as a dial on the radio which is always on but the dial goes from 0 to 10 - the white noise sound is always there,” he replied.

After touring Black across the UK, including the 201 Edinburgh Festival, Le Gateau Chocolat now brings it to Theatre Royal Stratford East for its “swan song” from April 4 to 8.

“There is space for development,” he said about where it will finish. “It doesn’t feel like a full stop, more like an ellipsis or a semi-colon.”

Tickets start from £10. Visit stratfordeast.com for more

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